SCOTTISH trainer Nick Alexander is looking forward to the jumps season stepping up a gear so he can start edging towards a target of £200,000 in prize money.
Having sent out 24 and 28 winners in the past two campaigns, the Kinneston handler is keen to increase the overall quality from his team of 35 horses. He said: “It’s not so much about the number of winners as the quality of the horses and that’s what we are trying to improve. We’ve experienced being in the winner’s enclosure at Aintree and we want to be back there again – and at the other big courses in the south for that matter.
“Last season our number of winners was slightly down but the prize money level was up and we want to keep raising that bar. I am confident we have assembled our best ever team of horses and I’m sure there is even greater strength in depth.”
Daughter Lucy will share the rides along with Stephen Mulqueen, Kit Alexander and Blair Campbell.
The Alexander horses enjoy wonderful facilities and a choice of grass, sand and all-weather gallops. There is also a choice of schooling areas and they are all weighed regularly. In short, no stone is left unturned in the search for success at Kinneston.
Meanwhile, one more piece of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe jigsaw slotted into place yesterday when Frankie Dettori was confirmed as the rider of Ruler Of The World.
It had been feared the Italian, who missed the winning mount on Treve 12 months ago at Longchamp and has been replaced on the filly by Thierry Jarnet, would be forced to watch from the sidelines once again this Sunday.
There was speculation over which jockey would get the nod on Aidan O’Brien’s 2013 Investec Derby hero, although three-times Arc winner Dettori had been in the saddle when he registered his victory in the Prix Foy. Al Shaqab Racing, which retains Dettori, is a part-owner of the Galileo colt along with the Coolmore partners, and O’Brien’s son, Joseph, had ridden him on his previous start in the Dubai World Cup.
Dettori’s agent, Ray Cochrane, said: “Frankie told me this afternoon he’s riding the horse, and hopefully he’ll have plenty more rides through the day.”
There was a great deal of interest from the Japanese media at Chantilly earlier in the day, when Naosuke Sugai’s two runners had a racecourse gallop. Just A Way (Yuichi Fukunaga), who was the highest-rated horse in the world after his devastating performance in the Dubai Duty Free, worked alongside Gold Ship (Norihiro Yokoyama) on a misty morning outside Paris, with the former pushed out to finish slightly ahead.
James Doyle had been at Roger Charlton’s stable in Wiltshire to ride Al Kazeem, whose participation was confirmed by the Beckhampton handler. The multiple Group One winner, sixth last year, has subsequently returned to training after a failed attempt at stud.
“He worked nicely in a routine piece of work,” said Charlton. “James Doyle rode him, he was very happy with him, so we’ll send him to Paris. He seems to take his races very well. In the paddock before a race he’s very relaxed, he looks magnificent and he’s showing no signs of being a stallion. He’s very willing and able in his work. He’s always been a very noble, straightforward and intelligent horse.
“He never comes out in the morning looking anything other than happy and fresh and, indeed, moving as well as ever. I think the truth is, as he’s a year older he’s unlikely to have got any better and he needs to get better to win a race like the Arc.
“Last year we were given a very awkward draw and nothing was going to be good enough to beat Treve last year. I’m not sure that’s the same this year.
“It’s a very open race and you could find half a dozen horses at least with chances. There’s nothing outstanding.”
Likely outsider Shamkala was the only horse to drop out of the field at the latest forfeit stage, leaving 19 left, but there is still a final chance to supplement for 120,000 euros today.
G Force is unlikely to run in the Prix de l’Abbaye at Longchamp, with connections instead likely to wait a fortnight for Champions Day at Ascot.
Although the Haydock Sprint Cup winner was still in the hat at the latest forfeit stage, the David O’Meara-trained sprinter is likely to remain over six furlongs for the Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes on 18 October.
Nick Bradley, spokesman for owners Middleham Park Racing, said: “He’s very, very unlikely to run in the Abbaye. We left him in there to cover ourselves in case anything happens.”